Journey to Freedom
Volunteer with Elephants
Journey to Freedom
Volunteer with Elephants
Journey to Freedom
Volunteer with Elephants
Journey to Freedom
Volunteer with Elephants
Journey to Freedom
Volunteer with Elephants
Journey to Freedom
Volunteer with Elephants


Volunteer Project with Elephants Journey to Freedom

Support the Herd at Journey to Freedom

The Covid-19 coronavirus has caused severe challenges around the world and has placed extreme limitations on travel. As a result, Journey to Freedom has been temporarily closed. We are doing the very best that we can to properly care for the elephants at our project, but need your support, now more than ever. We understand that this is a difficult time for many people around the world and offer our heartfelt sympathy. If you are in a position to help support our herd, any gift to buy food for the elephants would be greatly appreciated – 

Journey to Freedom is a unique elephant sanctuary where a small group of volunteers have the chance to spend an unforgettable week with a herd of five elephants in the remote jungles of Northern Thailand. With plenty of time to observe elephants and learn about Karen culture, this project offers an amazing adventure.

After the 1989 ban on logging, the Karen saw no other choice but to lease their elephants to trekking camps where they were often mistreated and overworked giving rides and performing, leading to physical and psychological injuries. Journey to Freedom was created to make it possible for the Karen to bring their elephants home to live in the jungle near their village where they can enjoy socializing with each other, foraging on native plants, and live a more natural existence.

As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of elephants and people in the local community. Some of the activities you and your group will take part in include planting and cutting grass for the elephants, preparing medicinal health balls, teaching English at a local school, as well as helping to protect the forest and work on projects designed to improve the lives of local people. You will also have plenty of time to observe the elephants in their jungle habitat and take part in educational and fascinating elephant-friendly activities. An experienced guide will be on hand to guide you through the days and impart interesting facts about the elephants. Before leaving the project on Sunday morning, a Buddhist blessing ceremony will be held by the Karen to thank volunteers for their participation.

By choosing to volunteer at this project, you will be supporting the shift towards responsible, ethical elephant tourism that is sustainable over the long term and is allowing these elephants to live a more natural life as well as supporting the Karen people.

Experience the privilege of being with elephants in their jungle habitat where they are most at home and help support the local Karen community

Journey to Freedom Volunteer with Elephants
Journey to Freedom Elephant Volunteer Project

Volunteer Activities

  • Walk with the elephants and observe them foraging and interacting in jungle surroundings
  • Plant and cut grass and other elephant food and feed the elephants
  • Make health balls from banana, tamarind, salt, rice and a special vine from the Tinospora Cordifolia tree, which aids elephant digestion.
  • Learn about Karen culture and traditions
  • Enjoy delicious vegetarian Thai dishes freshly prepared daily
  • Teach English at the local school
  • Learn about the benefits of shade grown coffee & plant coffee bushes
  • Visit the local Karen village and work on projects to improve the village
  • Blessing ceremony in thanks for your contribution to the community
  • Make friends with like-minded people from around the world

Volunteer Project Details

Number of Guests: 15
Number of Elephants: 5
Tour Type: One Week Volunteer
Fitness Level: Moderate
Age Suitability: Adults 16+

Volunteer Project Price

Adults 16+: 15,000 Baht per week

What's Included

  • Transportation from our Chiang Mai office to the project and back to Chiang Mai, where you will be dropped at your hotel
  • A practical education on the challenges facing the Asian elephant
  • Simple tribal hut accommodation with beds, bedding with mosquito nets, shared toilets & one hot water shower
  • Three freshly prepared vegetarian buffet style meals provided daily, snacks, water cooler with filtered drinking water, tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Journey to Freedom t-shirt
  • Qualified English speaking guide

Location, Accomodation & Meals

Nature in the Jungle

Ethical Elephant Volunteer Program
This is a small Saddle Off volunteer project with a limited number of guests. Our model is based on ensuring the well-being of the elephants, which means no riding or other unnatural activities.

About Your Volunteer Program

Start: Monday 8:00am – 8:30am – please arrange your own transportation to come at our Chiang Mai office around 8:00am. Volunteers can pay the outstanding balance for their visit, complete the insurance form, and provide a copy of your passport at our office. The minivan will leave from the office for Journey to Freedom between 8:30am – 8:45am.
Travel Time: Around 2.5 hours (safety video en route to project).
Transport Details: Transfer from an air-con minivan to a 4WD pickup for the last 30 minutes of your journey to the project.
Return: Arrive back in Chiang Mai city on Sunday afternoon 1:00pm – 1:30pm.
Duration: One week only. Volunteer positions start on the Monday and end on Sunday.
Accommodation: Volunteers stay in shared traditional style wooden housing. There are beds in the rooms each with a mattresses under a mosquito net and bedding is provided. One shared room has 6 beds and the other room has 5 beds. One hot water shower, 2 cold water showers and 3 shared toilets are located near the house. There are 2 traditional style bamboo bungalows at the entrance of the project for couples with a private bathroom.  Electrical outlet plugs are available for charging devices, etc.
Facilities: Dining area overlooking rice paddies with hammocks, gift shop selling Karen style shirts and traditional pants, coffee & tea, cold water dispenser. Bottled water, soft drinks, and beer are available for purchase at the shop.
Items Provided: Free Journey to Freedom t-shirt, rubber boots, & ponchos in the rainy season.
Baggage / Luggage Allowance: One standard check-in sized rucksack / suitcase / bag & one day pack per person.
What to Bring: Overnight bag with change of clothes for 7 days, long pants and long-sleeve shirt, gardening gloves, hat, sunscreen, sandals/flip flops, change of clothing for river bathing, towel, walking shoes, camera, insect repellent, flashlight & personal medication.*Bring clothing and items suitable for wet weather if visiting in the rainy season (June – Nov). If visiting in the cool season (Nov – Feb), bring some clothing suitable for cold weather. If you would like to bring items for the local school students such as pens, coloring pencils, notebooks, games, toys, etc. they will be much appreciated.
Travel Insurance: Volunteers are required to have travel insurance covering medical expenses and emergency repatriation.
Vaccinations: Please contact your doctor or vaccination centre in your country for details on recommended vaccinations.
Operational Months: All year round.
Age Suitability: Adults & teenagers over 16 (participants younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by a legal guardian).
Fitness Level: Moderate – daily walks through the jungle – sometimes up steep hills in muddy conditions.
Topography: Jungle, mountains, hills, grassland, rice paddies & stream.
Location: Mae Chaem, South of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.
Nearest Airport: Chiang Mai (CNX) – we recommend you stay in Chiang Mai city the night before your volunteer week begins. Please note that we cannot collect you from Chiang Mai Airport – only from your Chiang Mai city hotel or guesthouse.
Booking Details: Bookings close 3 days before you are due to visit. When booking online, a 30% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your booking. The balance can be paid by cash or credit card (+3%) at our Chiang Mai office on Monday morning – the day that your volunteer stay commences. Please note that for this volunteer project we do not offer a pickup from your hotel in Chiang Mai so on the reservation form under Name of Hotel / Guesthouse & Hotel Address, please write Chiang Mai office, 3/2 Ratchamanka Road. 

How You are Helping as a Volunteer

  • Elephants can return to live in the jungle near the Karen village where they are free from riding and performing in shows
  • Help to plant, cut and prepare food for the elephants, including medicinal health balls
  • Teach English to students at the local school
  • Help protect the forest by tying blessed sashes aroundthe trunks of trees to stop them from being cut down and planting saplings
  • Work wtih locals to help make improvments to the local village
  • Support Karen women from the local village by purchasing their textiles
  • Help to care for animals at the project including three beautiful cats

Tips on Local Culture & Location

  • Mobile phone coverage at this project is limited (AIS & True can get some coverage but not DTAC) and there is no wi-fi connection
  • This is a remote location so please bring all necessary medications and articles of convenience
  • Please respect the local culture by dressing modestly – no sleeveless tops, short skirts/pants or bikinis
  • The use of illegal substances / drunken behavior is not permitted at the project

Project Background

The owner of this project Bo Tu, is a Karen man who grew up around elephants from a young age. He was born in Mae Chaem and grew up learning about elephants from both his grandfather and father who worked with and cared for elephants. The older elephants at the project have been in his family for his entire life. The project is run with the help of his family and relatives from the nearby Karen village. Journey to Freedom is home to 5 female elephants, Mae Bu Sii (35 years old) and her daughter Gilli (nearly 3 years old), Mae Yui (28 years old) and her daughter, Mae Boy (9 years old) as well as Boo Jaan a 50 year old female who prefers to spend time on her own. The 3 older elephants used to do logging and riding in the past and Mae Bu Sii and Mae Yui used to do shows. The younger elephants Gilli and Mae Boy have never worked. Since coming to Journey to Freedom the elephants have gained weight, look more healthy and are much happier thanks to being able to interact freely and roam their natural jungle habitat.


How Journey to Freedom is eco friendly & sustainable

  • Project grows grass and bananas for the elephants and the elephants are able to forage in the jungle.
  • Supports the local community by buying bananas & sugarcane from nearby farmers for the elephants and vegetables for the guests.
  • Forest protection program - volunteers are invited to tie blessed ochre colored sashes around trees in the forest to protect them from being cut down and in the rainy season plant saplings. Volunteers also learn about and plant shade grown coffee in the surrounding area to preserve the forest.
  • All crops are grown organically – no chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used.
  • Elephant dung is composted in a large pit and given to local farmers to fertilize their crops.
  • Rubbish is recycled and left over food and scraps are given to the pigs in the local village.
  • Project structures incorporate natural materials including bamboo, farmed wood, and leaf roofing.
Scroll to Top